Wednesday, September 26, 2018


The Episcopal Church diocese announced yesterday that it is inviting two representatives from each of the 29 returning parishes to be guests at the upcoming diocesan convention. The meeting will be at Church of the Holy Communion, in Charleston, on November 16 and 17. If more than two people from each parish wish to attend, the extras are invited to register as visitors. Find the diocesan announcement of this here .

The people of the 29 parishes are also invited to attend the pre-convention deanery meetings:  6 October at St. Mark's of Port Royal, 10 October at Church of the Holy Communion in Charleston, and 14 October at Church of the Messiah in Myrtle Beach.

Members of the 29 returning parishes who wish to attend the convention should contact Fr. Coyne at:


On August 2, 2017, the South Carolina Supreme Court ordered that 29 of the 36 parishes in question remain under trust control of the Episcopal Church and the Episcopal Church in South Carolina. This, in effect, returns the 29 to the authority of the Episcopal Church bishop. Last November, the SCSC remitted their Aug. 2 order to the circuit court for enactment. The U.S. Supreme Court refused to take the case thus ending any appeal of the August 2 decision. Circuit court Judge Edgar Dickson is now handling the SCSC decision and in all likelihood will proceed with enforcement of the decision at a hearing late next month. It is just a matter of time before the Episcopal Church bishop regains physical control of the 29 properties. Bishop Adams has promised there will be no break in church services. On the very first Sunday after the handover of the keys, there will be Episcopal Church clergy in every one of the 29 to continue regular church services.

Which local churches are among the 29? Here is my UNOFFICIAL list as I read the August 2 SCSC decision:

BEAUFORT - St. Helena's


BLUFFTON - Church of the Cross

CHARLESTON - St Andrew's (Old St. Andrew's)

CHARLESTON - Church of the Good Shepherd

CHARLESTON - St. Luke and St. Paul

CHARLESTON - Holy Trinity

CHARLESTON - St. Michael's

CHARLESTON - St. Philip's

CHERAW - St. David's

EDISTO - Trinity Church


FLORENCE - All Saints

HARTSVILLE - St. Bartholomew's

HILTON HEAD - St. Luke's

JAMES ISLAND (Charleston) - St. James

JOHNS ISLAND - Church of Our Saviour


MOUNT PLEASANT - Christ Church

MYRTLE BEACH - Trinity Church

ORANGEBURG - Church of the Redeemer

PINOPOLIS - Trinity Church

STATEBURG - Church of the Holy Cross

SULLIVANS ISLAND - Church of the Holy Cross


SUMTER - Church of the Holy Comforter

SURFSIDE - Church of the Resurrection


YONGES ISLAND - Christ/St. Paul's

These parishes are the ones now invited to send representatives to the diocesan convention.

To clarify, the SCSC also listed 7 parishes that were not under trust control of the Episcopal Church and the Church diocese. The parishes NOT ordered to return to TEC:

1-CONWAY - St. Paul's

2-DARLINGTON - St. Matthew's

3-FLORENCE - St. John's

4-GEORGETOWN - Prince George Winyah

5-MOUNT PLEASANT - St. Andrew's

6-PAWLEYS ISLAND - Christ the King

7-SUMMERTON - St. Matthias

As of the SCSC decision, the independent Lawrence "diocese" now has six parishes. St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant is in another diocese.

This leaves numerous other local churches, not on the two lists, that are now under the independent diocese. As I understand it, their eventual legal placements will be determined on an individual basis.

Thus, under the state supreme court decision, the Episcopal Church and its local diocese now legally control the 29 parishes in question. The Lawrence diocese, however, has refused to accept the SCSC decision and has not turned over physical possession of the properties to the Church. I expect Judge Dickson will accomplish this in the near future. It is just a matter of time, and I expect it will be sooner rather than later. The people in the 29 parishes who want to return to the Episcopal Church should accept the diocese's invitation to attend the convention. I expect to be there too.

Tuesday, September 25, 2018


On yesterday, 24 September, the two groups of lawyers presented their latest papers to Judge Edgar Dickson, of the circuit court. This is the third round of papers to Dickson. The first was six petitions/motions, three from each side (Nov. 2017-July 2018). Then, he asked for "lists" from the two sides summarizing what they wanted from the court (August 2018). Afterwards, he asked the two sides to present briefs of arguments for their positions (yesterday's papers). Next, we can expect each side to respond to the other side's briefs and then responses to the responses. Honestly, how much more does this judge need? Nevertheless, I appreciate his care and considered deliberation. We certainly do not want another debacle such as we had with Judge Diane Goodstein whose conduct of the trial and decision were ridiculed mercilessly and discarded by all of the justices of the state's high court in their hearing of Sept. 23, 2015. Thus, we can understand why he is being careful, but really, three rounds of papers before he even holds a hearing? He has said he plans to hold a hearing on all this in the weeks of October 22 or 29. He should certainly have all the paperwork he needs by then. I expect to be in the courtroom for the hearing.

In the following, I am speaking only for myself. As everyone knows I am not a lawyer and not connected to either diocese. Here is what I see, for what it's worth:

There is very little that is new in yesterday's briefs. However, there are a few subtle differences that need to be mentioned.

Find the links to the briefs here .


First, the Church side.

TEC/TECSC's papers emphasized three points: 1-to enforce the South Carolina Supreme Court decision of August 2, 2017; 2-to require an accounting of DSC assets since 2008; and 3-to dismiss DSC's Betterments lawsuit. None of this is new. None of this is unclear.

1 --- On the SCSC decision, TEC/TECSC is simply asking the judge to carry out the high court orders. The judge really has no choice. The SCSC denied a rehearing, then remitted its decision to the circuit court for enforcement. Afterwards, the denial of cert in the U.S. Supreme Court ended the matter. The SCSC decision of Aug. 2, 2017 is the final law. The lower court has to carry out the law.

While this is the same theme that the lawyers have made for months, there are several points of interest in the brief. On page 9, the lawyers asked that the titles of the 29 parishes in question to be transferred to TEC/TECSC by the court's requiring, or ordering, the parishes to execute the deeds:

"With respect to the property of twenty-nine parishes, this Court should enforce and provide further relief based upon the August 2, 2017 Opinion of the South Carolina Supreme Court by transferring title to the parish property from the individual parish corporations to TEC and its Assocuiated Diocese, TECSC, by requiring the appropriate Plaintiffs to execute all necessary deeds or instruments of title, or by transferring the title by Court order..."

Then, on page 11, the lawyers said TEC/TECSC would transfer the deeds to the  parish corporations, that is, the parishes of the Church diocese.

In another interesting note in this paper, the lawyers point out that Old St. Andrew's is included among the 29 parishes to be returned to Church control (page 10). This should end any speculation that the Episcopal Church and diocese were ready to recognize OSA as an independent entity. 

Once again, the Church lawyers asked the court to appoint a Special Master to oversee the transition.

2 --- In the accounting brief, the lawyers provided more detail of what they want from the accounting firm. Pages 4 and 5 give a list of specific items to be accounted. This would be a thorough examination of the diocesan financial matters for the past decade. One interesting point requires all the details of DSC's legal fees. Another requires a full accounting of all bank accounts transferred from one financial institution to another.

3 --- The third paper asked the court to dismiss DSC's Betterments lawsuit. The lawyers' basic argument is the suit was improperly filed. They said the Betterments act did not apply to this situation. Besides, the parishes are the legal owners of the properties while the national church and diocese are trust beneficiaries. TEC/TECSC cannot be sued since they are not the owners. In addition, DSC missed the 48-hour time limit to file a suit under the act which they had not right to file anyway as the original plaintiffs.


Now, the independent diocesan side.

The DSC lawyers presented three papers that were really two. 
The first two documents, "Memorandum in Support of Motion for Clarification and for Other Relief," and "Supplement to Motion..." are parts of the same. The third paper is a one-page request for complex case designation which would mean one judge would handle all aspects of the case.

Essentially what the DSC lawyers are asking is a re-litigation of the issues. They want Dickson to discard the SCSC decision and decide the issues anew. They claim the SCSC decision is too ambiguous to be enforced. This is not the way I read the SCSC decision. The three primary decisions of the SCSC are enumerated clearly on the last page (p.77): 1-8 church organizations outside trust, 2-28 church organizations under trust control of TEC via accession to the Dennis Canon, and 3-Camp St. Christopher under control of Church diocese. There is nothing ambiguous about these opinions.

The DSC lawyers also said the SCSC reaffirmed the All Saints decision of 2009. I do not see that either. In fact, only former chief justice Jean Toal, the author of the decision, defended it. The other four justices all said the 28 or 29 parishes had legally acceded to the Dennis Canon. Three of those four went on to say the parishes could not unilaterally revoke their accessions (only Kittredge disagreed). Thus, no one other than Toal, supported the All Saints decision.

Another interesting point of the DSC papers is that they do not mention Old Saint Andrew's. Apparently DSC has dropped the attempt to have the court recognize OSA as one of the parishes outside of TEC control. The people of OSA should get ready for the return of the Episcopal Church.

In football-speak, DSC's papers of yesterday would be called The Hail Mary Pass. Is there anyone down field to catch the ball and score? I doubt it.

In summary, yesterday's papers present very little new. The lawyers have been arguing the same points for months now. 

TEC/TECSC is asking Dickson to enforce the SCSC decision. DSC is asking Dickson to set aside the SCSC decision and judge anew the issues of the case. Now, using common sense, which side do you think Dickson will favor? Would any sane judge want to reopen this can of worms? Dickson appears to me to be the most sane judge imaginable.

Alas, we have more to come. On Friday, October 5, the two sets of lawyers are to give Dickson their responses of yesterday's briefs. Then, on Friday, October 12, they are to present to Dickson their replies to the responses. Let's all hope the judge will have had enough and will be ready to wrap up all in a hearing late in October. After nearly six years, we have all had enough.


Sam Dargan's fine letter of yesterday has evoked quite a response from this blog's readers. I will relay two of the letters I received.

First, however, we have news on the legal front. The lawyers of the two sides presented briefs to Judge Dickson, of the circuit court, yesterday. Find information about this and the briefs here . As soon as I have a chance to read and ponder the new material, I will return with comments.

Now, to the letters in response to Dargan. The question at hand is whether homosexual Christians must refrain from same-gender sexual relations.


Letter # 1

Dear Ron:

In response to Sam Dargan's letter: I suspect that one of the problems with those who advocate that homosexuals remain celibate is that, perhaps unconsciously, their thinking is informed by all sorts of sordid and age-old stereotypes and bugbears about gay men and their sexual practices: that we have sex indiscriminately, anonymously, ravenously, even publicly. But those things bear absolutely no relation to the reality of the lives of most gay men in 21st century America. Our sex lives, in most cases, are not very different from those of our heterosexual counterparts (aside from the obvious differences of "plumbing").

My own story may perhaps serve as an interesting example. I met my now now-husband thirty-four years ago. The attraction was instant and overwhelmingly powerful. And while it certainly had a strong erotic element to it, it was not entirely sexual in nature. Over the course of the next two years, we became friends. The aesthetic and erotic appeal only grew stronger, but it was paralleled by equally powerful and growing feelings of tenderness, affection, respect and companionship. It became, in a word, love. I could not have said then, nor could I say now, where the friendship ended and the love began, where the intellectual and spiritual bond began and ended and where they commingled with the sexual desire and the sheer delight of being in each company. I do not believe that things work terribly differently for most happy heterosexual couples, both at the outset and as the years go by.

Every single day, for thirty-two years now, we have lived in absolute happiness, complete monogamy and an ever-growing sense that our marriage is ordained by something much greater than our two selves and our personal preferences or inclinations. The profound and joyful instinct that compels us to live our lives together, including but by no means limited to seual expressions of our love for each other, is not of our own creation. It is, we believe, a gift from God.

We have lived together through professional triumphs and disappointments, through cancer scares and old house renovations, through weight gained and lost, through the death of beloved parents, and through dozens of Christmases and Thanksgivings and birthdays and anniversaries, sometimes shared with friends or family and sometimes just with each other. We have rejoiced at the birth of nephews and nieces and godchildren and danced at their weddings; now, we rejoice at the births of great-nephews and great-nieces. We have fasted during Lent and feasted on Easter. We have watched a lot of football, listened to a lot of music, painted and repainted the outside of our house multiple times, planted and harvested thousands of tomatoes, raised and doted on three lovable bird dogs, baked and eaten several tons of cake, read thousands of the same books, conversed for thousands of hours in two-and-a-half different languages about topics ranging from the sublime to the ridiculous, gone to the gym countless times, traveled to numerous countries on numerous occasions, and drunk more than our fair share of both champagne and bourbon. Most Sundays, we receive the holy sacrament of the Most Precious Body and Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ kneeling next to each other at the rail of a church we love, like any devout married couple.

There is absolutely no doubt in my mind, my heart or my sour that God has been present for every single moment of this precious life with which we have been blessed. In fact, it is the individual, numinous moments of this shared life, and the never-ending, soul-deep gratitude I feel for those moments, that have continually revealed to me the truth of our most loving, merciful God, the Father Almighty, creator of heaven and earth. I am sure this is the case for most happily married believers. Nor is there any doubt in the minds and hearts of the many friends and family members who have witnessed and felt our love for each other---quiet and discreet but profound and utterly steadfast---that God has been, and continues to be, fully present in it all.

The sexual expression of a love such as this is by no means the dominant piece of the complex, interlocking puzzle that is a happy, healthy marriage. But neither is it dispensable. It is a part that cannot be separated from the whole---a true marriage is a union of hearts, minds, souls, and bodies. Celibacy would represent a nonsensical, even tragic, failure to honor that union and would not, I believe, serve God or the Church in any way. Just as devoted heterosexual couples express their love in a variety of ways, including by way of their sexuality, so too do we. Celibacy is no more an option for us than it would be for them.

Christopher Rivers


Letter # 2

Dear Ron:

To be sure, celibacy has a long history in the Church. We associate it with Jesus and St. Paul, with Mother Teresa, and with thousands of dedicated brothers and sisters serving Christ, particularly in the Roman Catholic Church.

Indeed, the Church has affirmed that lifelong celibacy is a spiritual gift and calling. But I am not sure about celibacy as a path that should be forced upon someone out of shame over their God-given sexuality. Not marrying is a worthy choice for Christians who are gifted with celibacy. But it seems to me that Jesus and St. Paul taught it must be a choice (see Matthew 19 and I Corinthians 7).

St. Augustine wrote "no one can be continent [celibate] unless God gives it." Ambrose wrote around the same time that lifelong "virginity cannot be commanded" and that "is the gift of few only."

More recently, the Franciscan monk, Fr. Richard Rohr, has been arguing that the Catholic church's insistence on imposing celibacy on clergy may be contributing to their ongoing sexual abuse scandals precisely because it is not a choice.

Pope John Paul II insisted that celibacy could not legitimately be forced on anyone. In his view, even clerical celibacy wasn't imposed upon anyone. After all, he said, those who felt called to marriage weren't obliged to pursue the priesthood. For him, marriage is an image of our ultimate union with Christ. On the other hand, celibacy, when properly undertaken, is not a rejection of marriage or sexuality. In fact, he believed it is a fulfillment of them. This has resonance with me.

The Church teaches that marriage is symbolic of our ultimate union with Christ and Him with His Church. Therefore, I believe that celibacy should be a calling meant to orient the person called more directly toward his or her ultimate marriage to Christ. By living out daily the true meaning of marriage, celibate Christians both affirm its goodness and remind married couples of its deepest meaning.

To your point about probable psychological damage caused by imposing celibacy on lesbian and gay Christians, the challenge of mandatory celibacy goes far beyond the mere capacity to tolerate it. It operates on the premise that lesbian and gay Christians must view all their sexual desire as sinful. Anyone doubting the deleterious nature of this imposition should walk a mile in the shoes of a lesbian or gay person who is told that their every sexual desire is sinful. Surely they can see how emotionally corrosive and damaging this could be over a lifetime.

If the purpose of celibacy is to affirm the basic goodness of sex and marriage by pointing to the relationship they prefigure: The union of Christ, humans, and the church, then mandatory celibacy for lesbian and gay Christians undermines this. It sends the message to lesbian and gay Christians that their sexual selves are inherently shameful. It is not a fulfillment of sexuality for lesbian and gay Christians, but a rejection of it.

In my view, our baptismal vow to respect the dignity of every human being means recognizing and rejoicing that some lesbian and gay people may be called to the gift of celibacy by God and choose it for themselves. However, for me, the Church imposing celibacy on all lesbian and gay Christians just because of their sexuality is anathema to all three legs of the "three-legged stool."

Wayne Helmly


My thanks to Rivers and Helmly for contributing these eloquent and moving letters.

I want to encourage everyone to write to me with your thoughts about these issues so crucial to our lives these days. Several people wrote to me yesterday and asked not to be published. I assure you I do not post comments without verifying with the writer and will not list names unless approved. So, email me if you just want to vent and have a listening ear. I have always been a good listener. I will keep it confidential. 

Everyone is invited to join the conversation on this blog. Any topic concerning the schism is welcome but the current strand of dialogue is whether sexual intimacy among homosexuals is inherently sinful or morally neutral. As I see it, DSC maintains that homosexual sex is inherently sinful and therefore non-celibate homosexuals must not be given equality and inclusion in the church while the Episcopal Church regards homosexual sex as morally neutral and therefore non-celibate gays and lesbians must be given full equality and inclusion in the church. The crux of the matter is celibacy or non-celibacy.

We have had a good start on a dialogue with excellent letters on both sides of the issue. I would like to keep the conversation going. We are waiting to hear what you think. Email at the address above.

Monday, September 24, 2018


Today is Monday, 24 September 2018. We have an excellent new letter to this editor. It continues in the train of the numerous letters I have received for several weeks, and so I am pleased to present it:


Dear Ron:

As a member of the "Lawrence diocese" and as one who appreciates thoughtful and respectful dialogue on complex issues, I raise a point of clarification. A letter you posted on September 14th includes the following commonly-held opinion: "The breakaway diocese of Mark Lawrence chooses to practice discrimination and exclusion against homosexual and transgender individuals..." This summary statement oversimplifies my thinking, which is also the position of my bishop and diocese as I understand it.

Please note that my intent here is not to refute you or your letter writer, but merely to explain my current thinking in the complex and evolving debate over Christian sexual ethics. The term, "homosexual," as a class of humans, does not come from the Bible, but from the scientific work of Sigmund Freud over a hundred years ago. There is no harm in scientific classification, but the popularity of Freud's terminology has led to confusion in our understanding of scripture. For example, the Revised Standard Version (RSV), a respected modern translation, renders I Corinthians 6:9-10 as follows: "...neither the immoral, nor idolaters, not adulterers, nor homosexuals, nor thieves...will inherit the kingdom of God." However, based on my reading of translations and commentaries, the Greek phrase the RSV translates as "homosexuals" really means something like "men who play either the female role or the male role in homosexual coitus." Activities, not personality classes, are being addressed. The Bible does not condemn any class of persons, but rather warns against certain types of actions. Our current controversy is giving us the opportunity, and the necessity, of untangling this confusion.

My thinking has changed over the course of the debate in the Episcopal Church over homosexual rights. I now think the church should not look down on anyone's personal sexual attractions. However, the church should recommend the Bible's rules about sexual behavior, as beneficial ethical guidelines for all people, regardless of their orientations. The foregoing is my general view, not an exact solution for individual problems. I think my diocese has the same general view. In my knowledge, Bishop Lawrence has ordained at least one self-identified homosexual-but-celibate person to the clergy. That indicates that we are not discriminating against people merely for being homosexual.

I realize that my position is not the final answer for all people, especially not for my "liberal" friends nor for my wife, but I am grateful for the opportunity to exchange ideas in this blog spot. Thank you, Ron.

Sam Dargan


And thank you, Sam Dargan, for this fine letter. This is exactly the sort of thing I like for this blog, ideas that are clear, respectful of others, and not personal. Let's have more.

If I may add a thought here, as Sam says, the real dividing issue is whether the church should insist homosexuals remain celibate after ordination. The best argument for homosexual celibacy is in Wesley Hill's work, Washed and Waiting: Reflections on Christian Faithfulness and Homosexuality, 2010, 160 p. A professor at Trinity School for Ministry, Hill claims that homosexuals are born and not made, but must remain celibate. This raises the issue of loneliness and depression, something he addresses by calling for friendship networks among celibate homosexuals. I must admit I have not read Hill's book, and maybe he addresses the obvious issue in the book, but I wonder how far this "friendship" can go on a physical level. Where is the limit: handshake, hug, kiss, ...? Or, should there be no physical contact at all? Is verbal and written communication enough to satisfy the emotional needs of human beings? I rather doubt it. The idea that homosexuals should deny and sublimate their physical desires sounds unhealthy to me, but then I am not a psychologist or psychiatrist. 

When the Episcopal Church took up the issue of homosexuality, starting in the 1970s, it found two different aspects: the morality of homosexual activities, and the ordination of homosexual persons. The "wings" of the church took opposite sides on both aspects. The "conservatives" insisted that homosexual activities were inherently immoral and thus non-celibate homosexuals must be denied ordination. The "liberals" held that homosexual activity was morally neutral, that is, inherently neither good not bad, and that non-celibate homosexuals must not be denied ordination. The Episcopal Church never really had an open and full discussion of the aspect of morality of homosexual activity. Instead, the church dealt with the matter of homosexuality on an institutional level, finally deciding that homosexuals must not be denied ordination to the priesthood and episcopacy regardless of celibacy. This was, as the conservatives pointed out, in fact, a back door answer of the morality question. By adopting the ordination of homosexuals regardless of celibacy, the church gave tacit approval of the liberals' view of moral neutrality. This, in turn, led to the logical steps of the Episcopal Church's adoption of the blessing of same-sex unions and of same-sex marriage. I have always regretted that the church never hashed out the underlying moral issue when it had a chance in the 1970s-90s, but then the General Convention, with its rigid and restricted time constraints, does not readily lend itself to such broad discussions. As I see it, this leaves us presently with two opposing views of the interface of the church and homosexuality, to see homosexual physical acts as 1-morally neutral or as 2-immoral. That, I think, is the kernel of the matter.

I found it curious that, in the two recent tours, the "conversations" of the Church diocese, and the Last Hurrah of Bp Lawrence, the issue of homosexuality barely appeared even though it had been the direct cause of the schism. There were very few questions from the audiences about it. Lawrence skirted it, and said he left the Church in 2012 because of the transgender issue. However, the letters I get to this blog overwhelmingly deal with homosexuality. I suspect we do not want to talk about homosexuality face to face, but do want to talk about it. What that says, well, you will have to decide for yourself.

Join the conversation. Send me your thoughts, and follow Sam Dargan's pattern: ideas, respect, and non-personal. Send to the email address above. Let's keep the dialogue going. It is healthy for all of us.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018


Get ready, Alabama, the schismatics are on the way. On September 25-26, 2018, they will be holding a conference at Samford University, in Birmingham, and are going to tell us all about "What is Anglicanism?" I think we all have a pretty good idea of what they are going to say. We have heard it all in South Carolina.

The anti-Episcopal Church forces are making a toehold in Alabama and it is centered at Samford University, in Birmingham. Samford is an independent university historically connected to the Southern Baptist Convention. The Beeson Divinity School, at Samford, recently established The Institute of Anglican Studies "devoted to orthodox Anglicanism, the gospel proclaimed and lived by the Christian Great Tradition, the classic worship of the Book of Common Prayer, the doctrinal commitments of the Thirty-Nine Articles, and the final authority of the Holy Scriptures for faith and life." The Institute offers the Certificate of Anglican Studies that "prepares a student for life and ministry in the Anglican Church." Find more about the Institute here . The Institute has been recognized by the Anglican Church in North America as a training ground for their new clergy. It has the potential to be a seedbed for schism in Alabama. Never mind that ACNA and the other schismatic groups have not been, and certainly will be not, recognized as Anglican. To be an Anglican, one has to be in communion with the Archbishop of Canterbury. He has said he is not in communion with ACNA. ACNA is not part of the Anglican Communion. The only province of the Anglican Communion in the U.S. is the Episcopal Church.

The conference is set to bring together many prominent critics and opponents of the Episcopal Church from around the world. 

---Eliud Wabukala, retired primate of Kenya, has been a leader in GAFCON, the Global South, and the founding of ACNA. 

---Mouneer Anis, chair of the Global South primates' steering committee, active supporter of ACNA, and prominent defender of schism in SC. 

---Foley Beach, archbishop of ACNA.

---Ephraim Radner, theologian, academic, and prominent writer critical of TEC.

---Stephen Noll, long-time speaker and writer critical of TEC.

---Andrew Pearson, dean of the Episcopal Cathedral Church of the Advent, Birmingham.

---Others: Gerald Bray, Barbara Gauthier, John Yates III, Rusty Reno, Timothy George, and Gerald McDermott.

Find the conference schedule here .

One will note that the Episcopal bishop of Alabama, Kee Sloan, has been allotted a five minute slot for a "prayer." I am surprised they let him on the program at all.

If this anti-TEC brigade thinks they are going to establish a beachhead in AL to spread their fundamentalist, anti-human-rights kind of religion, they may have some reason to believe it. Andrew Pearson, the dean at Advent, has a history with the background of the schism in South Carolina. He was assistant at St. Helena's under Jeff Miller before going to Birmingham. See my blog piece, "Memo to Dean Pearson: No Schism in Alabama." Find it here . Even before Pearson, Advent was for years a strong conservative voice of Episcopal Church criticism in AL. This has not changed. Advent is virtually a church within a church about as distant from the rest of the diocese as possible. I expect they would secede from the union if they could take the property with them. Owing to its size (3,600 members) and wealth, Advent has a certain power in the diocese. If we look at the 2017-18 parish "covenants" of parish payments to the diocese, we see Advent's attitude. Find the table here . In 2017, Advent pledged $293,200 to the diocese. Of this, $183,543 was an undefined "restriction." Moreover, Advent reduced its pledge by $30,284.60. Under budget constraints, the Diocese of Alabama has not been able to replace Assistant Bishop Santosh Marray who left to become bishop of Easton in 2016. Sloan is now the sole bishop in one of the largest dioceses of TEC.

What is the likelihood of schism in Alabama? Highly remote. The schism in South Carolina was the work of a diocesan leadership committed to a long-term adversarial interface with TEC. They made the schism and presented it as a fait accompli to the clergy and laity who had two choices, go along with the diocesan leadership or stay with TEC. There is no such situation in Alabama and no expectation that one will develop. The "orthodox" presence in Advent seems not to be widespread. The bishop of AL and the diocesan leadership have shown steadfast loyalty and devotion to the Episcopal Church even in the most difficult days of reforms for African Americans, women, homosexuals and transgendered. Alabama has enjoyed a train of great bishops. Before Sloan was the universally revered Henry Parsley, who barely lost out to Katharine Jefferts Schori for presiding bishop in the election of 2006.

Nevertheless, every diocese ought to recognize the potential of a schism on the part of the intolerant "orthodox" church people. Every bishop should be aware of the current climate of schism. Of course, every bishop should read my history of the schism in SC.

Having studied and written about the schisms in the Episcopal Church, here is my unsolicited advice to the TEC bishops today:

---Welcome all viewpoints. Give dignity and respect to differences of opinion and insist that everyone do the same.

---Get to know your clergy and lay leaders well.

---Make it absolutely clear to everyone that you and the diocese are devoted to the Episcopal Church and you will enforce the Dennis Canon without question.

---Encourage differences of opinion but make it clear you will not tolerate treason against the Episcopal Church and the Church diocese.

---Insist that the Standing Committee and other diocesan committees reflect the diocese and remain open to all viewpoints.

---Know your enemy. The Anglican Church in North America has declared itself the enemy of the Episcopal Church. It was set up by GAFCON and the four schismatic dioceses in 2010 with the explicit mission of replacing the Episcopal Church as the legal and legitimate Anglican province in the United States. It is devoted to discrimination against homosexual persons. ACNA was the product of a movement in the 1990's called the Anglican Realignment that aimed to destroy or greatly diminish the Episcopal Church which it believed had turned heretical. While it has not succeeded in replacing TEC in the Anglican Communion, the AR has met a certain success in harming the Episcopal Church.

It appears to me that the schismatic movement in the Episcopal Church has abated. As a backlash against the TEC reforms for homosexuals, it ran from 2007 to 2012, but seems to be dying down of late. Bp Love, in Albany, appears to be resolved to remain loyal to the church even as he finds ways to cope with the unwanted reforms for same-sex marriage. Nevertheless, the possibility of schism remains, and we should all remain alert to that in Alabama and every other diocese,

Monday, September 17, 2018


St. Andrew's parish, of Charleston, also known as Old Saint Andrew's, acceded to the Dennis Canon. Here is the proof. Click on the image for an enlargement:

This is page one of five, of the Constitution and Canons of St. Andrew's parish as adopted by the vestry on December 5, 2010, more than two years before the purported separation from the Episcopal Church.

Note Article 1.  The first phrase states, "Saint Andrew's Parish Church in the Diocese of South Carolina accedes to and adopts the Constitution and Canons of the Episcopal Church in the United States of America..." The Dennis Canon was one of the canons of the Episcopal Church having been adopted in 1979.

Thus, St. Andrew's parish explicitly acceded to the Dennis Canon. The document above is part of the public record. 

In spite of this clear proof, some people in the breakaway diocese have claimed for months that Old Saint Andrew's had not acceded to the Dennis Canon and was not one of the parishes to be returned to the Episcopal Church. Some have speculated that former chief justice Jean Toal made a mistake when she listed the seven parishes outside of TEC trust control and meant St. Andrew's of Mt. Pleasant to be OSA. 

I do not understand why anyone would make any claim that OSA did not accede to the Dennis Canon. The proof is clear and public. Moreover, the majority of justices agreed that once a parish gave accession to the Dennis Canon, it could not revoke that accession. 

At any rate, this is all probably a moot issue now since the one year time limit for a petition to the state supreme court for a change has expired. According to the SC Code of Laws, Rule 60, a party has one year to ask the court for a correction of an error. I know of no evidence that OSA petitioned the court for a correction of its decision of August 2, 2017.

It seems to me that Toal did not make an error and actually meant to leave OSA in the group of parishes to be returned to TEC.

It is disappointing that anyone in DSC would be telling the 500 communicants of OSA that their parish will not be returned to the authority of the Episcopal Church bishop. It is cruel to mislead the parishioners this way.

It seems to me that St. Andrew's parish, of West Ashley, Charleston, is now and has been a part of the Episcopal Church diocese. This is because the parish itself acceded to the canons of the Episcopal Church. It is just a matter of time before OSA returns the Episcopal Church flag to its rightful place in the church building. 

Saturday, September 15, 2018


It is Saturday, 15 September 2018. All of South Carolina is keeping a wary eye on the weather as tropical storm Florence slowly churns its way into the state. Early this morning, the center of circulation was near Georgetown and the northeastern area of SC was getting hit with wind and rain. Today we have another moving letter from a person caught in the man-made storm of the schism. In this, Gary Crossley generously and poignantly shares with us his experience. He is a communicant of St. Francis, in West Ashley. St. Francis is one of the ten Episcopalian worshiping communities set up in the wake of the schism. It presently meets in Stuhr's funeral home on Glenn McConnell Pkwy. in the West Ashley area of Charleston.


Dear Dr. Caldwell:

Thank you for your efforts to keep people like me informed of what has transpired over the past 5-6 years with the Episcopal Church split.

I grew up Presbyterian and I find it to be sadly reminiscent of what I went through in the mid-1970's with the split in the Presbyterian Church when living in Columbia, SC. That split divided family and friends, much like I have seen over the past 6 years.

Fast forward to when after marrying a Catholic faith individual in Washington DC, we merged religions to Episcopal and found a great church on Capitol Hill (Saint Mark's) near the Supreme Court. It was a vibrant church emphasizing laypeople participation in sermons and the church operations.

Which reminds me of why I like the Episcopal Church so much - diversity and various options of participation (Jesus Movement, Stephen ministry, Cursillo, EFM/Education for Ministry, Functional Education, United Thank Offering, Social Justice/Advocacy, Episcopal Volunteers in Mission/EVIM, etc.). Add to that, the number of female clergy and various ethnic/international congregations are a big plus.

After moving from Charleston's Grace Church to Old Saint Andrew's Episcopal in 1999 to be closer to our West Ashley home and where our two young children went to schools. I served on the vestry as the 1706 church went through a renovation and donated to the Century Preservation Fund.

Then, much to my chagrin the split/schism/break occurred - when it came to a vote in early 2013, I decided to abstain in my vote as I told my wife and others (like my college friend who stayed with a Lawrence Myrtle Beach church), but abstained in their church vote as well - he too said there were just winners and losers on this divisive issue.

So we left Old Saint Andrew's and settled in at the St. Francis Episcopal Church meeting in the Stuhr's Funeral Home (Stuhr's has been a blessing to the church and giving us a spiritual home!!!!!).

That leads me to our sermon this past Sunday, September 9, 16th Sunday after Pentecost by The Reverend Doctor Michael Shaffer on "Openness!"

Reverend Dr. Shaffer has been such an Easter gift to St. Francis when he joined us on that special time of the church year. He came to us via Federal Way, Washington and before that from Kansas City, Missouri, becoming a priest after a successful law career.

His sermon was based on scripture, Mark 7: 34-35, discussing "Be Opened," when Jesus helped open the ears, released the tongue, allowing the stranger to speak plainly and hear! Rev. Dr. Shaffer's sermon was right on the mark with praying with the current Old St. Andrews rector Marshall Huey for reconciliation today and tomorrow as both church congregations move forward to do God's work.

As I send this letter to the editor, I find myself opened as to what may happen to the Charleston area as I wait out the "Florence" storm. I also await where my wife and my spiritual journey carries us - a new place after Stuhr's, a return to Old St. Andrew's, or some other adventure? After this past Sunday's sermon, I'm open for the Lord's direction. Only God knows what is in store for all of us in this journey!

Gary Crossley, 
St. Francis,
West Ashley, Charleston


I can only say a heartfelt "thank you" to Gary Crossley for sharing this with us. Cannot everyone caught in this schism agree that we all should be open to the movement of the Holy Spirit in this time of trial? If we truly open out hearts, we will find we have far more in agreement than in disagreement. 

Crossley mentioned the Rev. Shaffer's sermon of last Sunday. I am including it here. Click on the image for enlargement:

Gary Crossley and the Rev. Shaffer have generously shared their thoughts with us. I am most appreciative.

Every one of the thousands of people caught in this unfortunate division has a story to tell. Whatever side you are on, it will help you, it will help us if you share your experience with us. Email me at the address above.

Friday, September 14, 2018


Today we have another letter to this editor which I will share with you. It follows in the train of the recent letters.


Dear Ron:

As the breakaway diocese of Mark Lawrence is coming to an end, the courts have ruled that the assets he took from The Protestant Episcopal Diocese of South Carolina (TECSC) must be returned. His diocese can make no claim to being the successor to the TECSC, therefore he is not the XIV Bishop of the Diocese of South Carolina and must stop masquerading as such. Additionally, a federal judge has granted The Episcopal Church's motion to intervene in a lawsuit over false-advertising and related claims against Mark Lawrence.

One has to wonder if members of the breakaway diocese noticed the following quote from the South Carolina Supreme Court ruling of August 2, 2017, concerning the actions of Mark Lawrence and the breakaway diocese leaders.

The use of the word "masquerade" by the United States Supreme Court in Milivojevich is particularly germane here. Whether used as a noun ("a disguise or false outward show") or as a verb (to "have or put on a deceptive appearance") the word aptly describes the actions of Bishop Lawrence and the Breakaway Diocese. Despite the vows and written assurances made by Bishop Lawrence concerning his loyalty to the National Church, within a few short years of his ordination, the masquerade began. Bishop Lawrence and his followers provided parishes with quitclaim deeds designed to disclaim any interest of the Diocese in each parish's property. In furtherance of a pretense of loyalty, these quitclaim deeds were not made public; rather, parishes were asked to delay their recording. Bishop Lawrence's group also quietly changed the Diocese's bank accounts, seeking out "friendly bankers" who would provide assurances that the accounts would not be frozen when litigation commenced. Importantly, the fuse which ignited this powder keg was without question the divergent views on the doctrines and teachings of the National Church.

The breakaway diocese of Mark Lawrence chooses to practice discrimination and exclusion against homosexual and transgender individuals, rather than love and acceptance so clearly incarnated and advocated by Jesus Christ.

Implementation of 2017 Supreme Court decision has begun under Circuit Judge Edgar Dickson who has indicated he did not want this case to drag out, that some resolution is needed. Hopefully, we can end this divisive and expensive situation.


Thank you, writer, for this timely contribution. In spite of what DSC is claiming, the SCSC decision was clear-cut and entirely enforceable.

Come on and join the conversation. We want to know what you think too. Everybody has something to contribute. Send to the email address above.

Thursday, September 13, 2018


Penn Hagood's letter and Wayne Helmly's response (see 10 September) continue to elicit comments. Today we have a new letter to this editor in reaction to Hagood's remarks.


Dear Ron:

I have thought a lot about Penn Hagood's letter and Wayne Helmly's thoughtful, apposite response to it. Much of what I would have to say has already been very well covered by Mr. Helmly's letter, but I did want to add one thing to the conversation.

I was struck by Ms. Hogood's statement about the fact that "our children are watching." She seems to assume that the best way to set a worthy example for one's children and to be deemed worthy in their eyes is by practicing discrimination and exclusion, rather than love and acceptance so clearly incarnated and advocated by Jesus Christ. This seems to me to be at best a huge leap and at worst a tragically erroneous premise.

According to a survey conducted by the highly reputable Pew Research Center for Religion and Public Life survey just last year (2017), 68% of (white) practitioners of the mainline Protestant denominations approved of same-sex marriage; 67% of practicing Roman Catholics held the same position on the matter. 85% of religious "nones," regardless of race or age, support it, while 74% of Millenials (born after 1981), so those who are currently 37 years or younger), regardless of race, political party, or religious affiliation support it.

What this means is that there is a very good chance that at least some, and possibly many, of the children, children-in-law and future grandchildren of Ms. Hagood's peers and fellow parishioners will not, in the end, be proud of a legacy of exclusion and backward thinking supported by transparent and hypocritical "proof texting" of the Bible. The better educated they are, it seems, the more likely this is to be the case. And let's not even get into the perfectly plausible scenario in which Ms. Hagood or one of her fellow parishioners finds him/herself with a gay or lesbian child or grandchild (yes, Ms. Hagood, it happens, even in the best of families and no, Ms. Hagood, it cannot be averted by raising children "right").

The fact is that many of the mostly heterosexual children, children-in-law and future grandchildren of the current schismatics are likely to feel the same sort of stinging shame many of us feel with regard to our parents' and grandparents' active or passive support of the atrocities of racial segregation in the Jim Crow era. We can of course forgive those lapses but the difficulty of forgiveness does vary according to the historical context: forgiving a parent for having supported segregation in 1975 is far more challenging than forgiving that same moral error committed in 1965 or 1955. Similarly, anti-gay prejudice is a considerably more egregious error in moral judgment in 2018 that it was in 1995 or 1975 (or, for that matter, 2012).

In short, the fact that "our children are watching" is a sword that can cut both ways. And in so doing, it can wound families deeply. Those who continue to advocate for a theology of fear, exclusion, and injustice would do well to give that some thought. Are you sure your actions today will make your children and grandchildren proud in the decades to come?


I thank the writer for contributing this thoughtful letter. It raises an important point about society's evolving understanding of marriage. The large and growing majority of Americans today accept same-sex marriage as the norm. This acceptance is directly related to age, the younger the more support. For a state-by-state breakdown of attitudes toward s-s marriage, see the article "Public Opinion of Same-Sex Marriage in the United States." Find it here . South Carolina supports s-s marriage, 53% in favor and 37% opposed. (Alabama is the only state in the union in which the majority of the people oppose s-s marriage.)

In the past two to three decades, attitudes towards homosexuality have shifted dramatically in America, and have done so in two major ways. In the first, society no longer sees homosexuality itself as immoral, but as morally neutral, that is inherently neither good nor bad. This is the understanding that has evolved in the Episcopal Church. In the second place, society had developed the understanding that discrimination against homosexual and transgendered persons is morally wrong. This is also the position that has evolved in the Episcopal Church.

The leaders of the Diocese of South Carolina made their schism in opposition to these two changes in the Episcopal Church. They rejected both reforms and found Bible verses for verification. They insisted that homosexuality was immoral and that non-celibate homosexuals must not be allowed equality and inclusion in the life of the church. These attitudes were firmly institutionalized in the Marriage Task Force documents of 2015 imposed on the diocese.

In years to come, DSC's policies against gay and transgendered people will be seen as we now see the old policies of institutionalized discrimination against African Americans and women. No one should forget that slavery, which no sane person would defend now, was almost universally touted in pulpits across the south before the Civil War as a moral good and the preachers had plenty of Bible verses to back themselves up. The democratization of American has meant the extension of liberty, equality, and inclusion for maligned and marginalized minorities. Gays just happen to be the latest group to arrive, long overdue.

Wednesday, September 12, 2018


Wayne Helmly's eloquent letter (see blog posting, September 10, 2018) has gone viral on Facebook. It has been greatly popular and has prompted a certain amount of comment. Today's letter to this editor follows in the train of Helmly's thought. 


September 10

Dear Ron:

Wayne's letter reminded me of that old Roberta Flack/Donny Hathaway classic "Where is the love?" I have struggled along with my brothers and sisters in Christ to try to understand how it is possible that so many people could ignore the central teaching of our faith: that is to love your neighbor as you love yourself, to wrap themselves in fear and hatred of people who only through their sexual orientation they have chosen to ostracize and victimize. I simply do not understand why we have not learned the lessons of our past mistakes: that discrimination against any group for any reason is directly in opposition to our Christian faith. As a church...we hurt and wounded our black brothers and sisters simply because of the color of their skin. When we finally began to admit this heinous act and made loving efforts to repent and recognize our failings...we turned around and visited the same ugly behavior on our brothers and sisters of every color. I would think that we might have learned our lesson by this point but apparently not. I cried at the pain and sorrow represented by Wayne's words. There is a lesson to be learned here that our faith blesses nothing that furthers discrimination and hatred. Jesus loved all. It is past time for us to do the same. Way past time.

Robin Bugbee
St. Mark's, Charleston


All I can say is "Amen" to this fine note. Is not this the schism in a nutshell, whether we treat all of God's children equally or not? Thank you, Robin Bugbee, for sharing this with us.

Join the conversation. Read Penn Hagood's letter to St. Philip's (see Sept. 10) and tell us what you think, good, bad, or indifferent. You do not have to be a great writer, or to give your name. Send me your thoughts, to the email address above.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Five years ago today, I started this blog. I had not kept a web log before and I had no idea what might be in store. I am glad now I started it and did not know what was going to happen in the five years. I have always believed it is best we do not know the future. If we did, no one would want to get out of bed.

I began this blog for two reasons, to provide a modest, little commentary on the progress of my writing a history of the schism and to give information and informed opinion on the ongoing events of the schism. I am satisfied that the blog has succeeded reasonably well on both counts. 

First of all, the blog has proven to be far more popular than I had imagined. At last check, it has had 473,400 "hits." In the last few months, for whatever reason, the blog has seen an explosion of interest with 120,000 hits in the past three months alone. I continue to be amazed at how many people read this modest space. Although many people consult this blog regularly, I am the one who has benefited the most. It is a good way to vent and to organize thoughts. 

I have posted around 425 items in the five years, with 415 still up. A few I removed for one reason or another. The number one, most accessed posting in the whole five years was "Cert Denied," of June 11, 2018, with 12,555 hits. This, of course, was the information on the U.S. Supreme Court's refusal to take an appeal of the case from the South Carolina Supreme Court. The court's refusal was essentially the end of the road for the question of the disposition of the parish properties. The next most popular item was "Chronology," with over 11,000 hits. In this, I provided a detailed timeline of the background, events, and aftermath of the schism. I suspect people have found this most helpful in following the complicated litigation. The next most often read piece was "A Remarkable Bishop, A Remarkable Three and a Half Years," of Sept. 1, 2016, with 5,469 hits. This was a reflection on the episcopate of provisional bishop Charles vonRosenberg. The next most popular item was the Rev. Rob Donehue's great letter of July 2, 2018. At last glance, it had received 2,774 hits. The "Sources" posting has also been popular. It provided an annotated bibliography of the history of the schism. It is the listing I made for my own research and writing of my history of the schism.

All of the numerous "Letters to This Editor" have been remarkably popular with readers. Wayne Helmly's moving letter of yesterday is still going viral on Facebook (1,300 hits in one day). It is good to have on the blog the views and words of other people. I expect readers get a bit tired of what Steve Skardon and I have to say. It is too bad there has not been a similar blogger on the breakaway side. I wish there had been. As a reminder, I encourage everyone to send me your thoughts on any aspect of the schism. If possible, I will post it and will omit name if you wish. Occasionally I get email that is not printable. I am sure you understand. I still welcome all emails.

When I started this blog, I was underway collecting all the documents and other sources I could on the history of the schism with a goal of the publication of a thorough narrative history of the schism. I wanted people to know how the break had come about, how it had occurred, and what it might mean for the future. I figured I could finish the book in a couple of years, about my imagined length of the schism. Wrong on both counts. I worked on the book for over four years absorbing over 2,500 papers and writing and rewriting text. I had to cull out over 100 pages of text to avoid a two-volume work. The hardest part was in the last few months when I was undergoing daily radiation for prostate cancer, recovering from surgery, and trying to meet the publisher's deadline. With a lot of help of most generous people, as Joan Gundersen, I managed to finish on time, even as the state supreme court issued its long-awaited decision. The treatment was a success and so was the book which has been met with positive professional reviews.

So, here we are nearly six years into the schism. To summarize everyone's feeling now, I would use one word, exhaustion. Everybody on both sides is just worn out and ready for it to be over and done. Enough already. Unfortunately, the legal system moves at its own glacial pace and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Judges proceed as they can. Every move seems to require a lot of time.

Nevertheless, the general outlines of the end are in sight. There are two avenues of the litigation now and both are slowly moving to conclusion. In the state court, Judge Dickson is to hold a hearing on all the papers before him late next month. It is reasonable to assume he will deal with it all as one package and proceed with the enactment of the state supreme court decision. Meanwhile, the federal court is preparing for a trial, in March of next year. That case will settle which side is entitled to the pre-schism diocese. Odds are strongly in favor of the Episcopal Church diocese. Thus, the judges Dickson and Gergel should essentially wrap up the litigation. As I see it, Dickson's work is not subject to appeal; however, the federal court decision is subject to appeal in the U.S. Court of Appeals, in Richmond. I doubt that DSC could delay the return of the 29 parishes, but it can postpone the turn over of the entity of the old diocese.

I know all this business must seem interminable to you readers out there. I get a lot of emails. However, we must not be disheartened. The end is in sight, if still far off on the horizon. The end will come, and the Church diocese will get on with its reconciliation and rebuilding and the Lawrence diocese will get on with its reconstruction from the ruins. It can still be a viable diocese but will face enormous challenges in rebuilding. Both sides need to get this schism behind them and move forward in doing what they are supposed to be doing, God's work in the world. The schism is a fact of history now, but the sooner it all becomes history the better.

And so, I will close with the new book review in Church History, the leading professional journal of the subject, with permission of the journal. I thank Frank Kirkpatrick for his words. I could not imagine a better way to mark five years online. Click on the image to get an enlargement.


These five years have been hard in many ways. I know it is difficult, maybe impossible, to see today, but I believe down the road good will rise from the ruins of the schism. The Diocese of South Carolina has survived a great deal of adversity and bounced back every time. The American Revolution all but ruined the old established church. The Civil War seemed the end of the world in the Low Country, at least to the white gentry. The despicable Schism of 1887 institutionalized the shameful racial discrimination that lasted for more than half a century. A bishop was shot and killed by a man probably motivated by racism. In the 1960s and 1970s, Bishop Temple led the diocese to weather the storms of racial integration, new prayer book, and equality for and inclusion of women in the life of the church. At the time, every one of these crises seemed terribly devastating. 

There was a common thread in all of the great crises in the history of the diocese, social policy. The present day division is part of this big picture. It too, came about because of social disagreement, that is, how we treat homosexual and transgendered persons in the life of the church. If the diocese survived the earlier social conflicts, it will this one too. Years from now, people will look back and shake their heads in dismay at the foolishness of 2012.